Student Spotlight: Leslie Early
September 07 2022
My name is Leslie Early. I’m an instructional designer at Transfr, Inc. Our mission is to create classroom-to-career pathways for everyone.
Not many people have heard of instructional design, but in a nutshell, instructional designers create learning experiences and materials, generally resulting in the acquisition of knowledge or skills. At Transfr, instructional designers work within a larger VR production eco-system, which includes interaction designers, copywriters, technical artists, developers and more. My job is to make sure that our VR simulations are meeting the learning needs of our consumers.
The first time I realized the power of VR in the training field was about two years ago. I was developing training materials for an online certification program for HVAC/refrigeration technicians. Most of the materials I was creating were e-learning modules that were meant to be taken on a traditional PC. However, during my research for that project, I came across some brief VR simulations, and a lightbulb went off for me. Those brief VR simulations taught me more about the subject matter in a few minutes than I had learned in hours of reading and watching videos. I understood on a visceral level the power of learning in VR, particularly for the skilled-trades industry.
From that moment on, I set out to learn more about VR and how these types of applications can be created.
I tried studying independently for about a year. I read some great books like The VR Book, UX for XR, and The Augmented Workforce: How AI, AR, and 5G Will Impact Every Dollar You Make. These books gave a lot of great background and theory, but I was still struggling with the actual development process.
What I really wanted to know was how to use Unity to create things. I watched some Youtube videos, and took some short self-paced courses online, but I kept getting frustrated because the materials would become out-of-date very quickly, and there was no one to speak to when I had questions.
Coming in Touch with Circuit Stream
I first heard about Circuit Stream through a Facebook ad, probably because I was doing so much research about XR development at the time, the algorithm knew me better than I knew myself. But I didn’t decide to enroll in a course right away. I probably kept up with my self-study for another six months, because I wanted to give myself the chance to try it on my own before investing in a course.
Eventually, I decided to enroll in the Introduction to 3D Development in Unity course with Ozzy. And even though that course wasn’t geared toward VR specifically, I liked that it was a foundational level course. After that, I then enrolled in the XR Development course with Nakisa.
Screenshot of a Bowling Game I made in Introduction to 3D Development with Unity.
Experience with the Course
I absolutely loved that first course because a lot of things started to fall into place for me, as far as understanding some basic programming and design concepts. Then, following up with the XR Development course deepened my understanding of VR development specifically. I have to say the best asset to both programs was having knowledgeable and engaging instructors. And in close second to that, was having classmates who were at my same level that I could share ideas, resources, and even struggles with. It felt great to not feel so frustrated and alone like I had when trying to learn on my own.
I had a blast with my two classmates, Richard Wang and David Jumeau, creating our Star Trek themed final project in XR Development. We found a lot of great assets available online that were made by other Trekkie fans, and we were able to prototype a fun first-person shooter where you have to walk around the original NCC-1701 Enterprise and stun tribbles before they take over the entire ship. That was definitely one of my favorite projects to work on so far.
Start screen for our group project in XR Development.
Prototyping a phaser and tribble interaction.
Layout of tools in scene of “Tribble Troubles”.
And as icing on the cake, while still enrolled in my XR Development course, I was hired at Transfr to create the kind of VR training that I had only dreamed of creating two years earlier. I have no doubt that my knowledge of Unity development, though still pretty foundational, was one of the things that set me apart from the competition and landed me that role. So, I can honestly say that the knowledge and skills I have learned through Circuit Stream has helped me land my dream job!
Your Future Work
In the long term, I plan to continue learning more about XR design and development. I feel confident that my self studies will be more productive now, especially since I have access to the Circuit Stream learning community for life!
I want to build up a portfolio of projects, but that is moving slowly for me at the moment. I’m not in a rush. I want to develop deep expertise, not just in designing for VR, but designing VR that puts learning first. This field is growing so rapidly, that I am just trying to keep my eyes and ears open and be as much of a sponge as possible.